All pictures, whether they are photographs of people, animals, portraits or events, will stand a far better chance of attracting the viewer’s eye – and holding it within the picture – if the composition is good. The use of leading lines within your composition can be a highly effective device – but one that is often seriously abused or misunderstood.
Good composition does not have to be confined to landscape photography.
So what makes a good composition?
It varies according the to subject. Hard rules, despite what some photography competition judges might tell you, don’t work all the time for every subject. You can, in fact, sometimes even make up your own rules as you go along – provided you know what the basic rules are in the first place.
The overriding priority has to be to attract and hold the viewer’s eye within your picture.
The picture below conforms to no absolute rules I know of except that the human eye nearly always responds favourably to the magic number 3.
There is an obvious triangle of leading lines in the picture – and triangles (that magic number 3) can be highly effective and pleasing. Here they have helped create a focal point.
I’m prepared to bet that when you first looked at this picture your eye went directly to the area that contains the faces of the man and the dog. Quite right. There are three (there’s that 3 again) reasons for this.
- You are human and are naturally attracted to find out what other people look like.
- Your eye was guided there because that area of the image is contained by a three leading lines created by lighter tones of the grass, the stick, and finally the eye lines of man and dog.
- The whole image is ‘capped’ by the dark area of the skyline and dark clouds. Your eye should certainly head up there to gather information, but it is naturally drawn back to the lighter area in and around our triangle.
- Eye lines – that means the direction in which a subject is looking – automatically become leading lines
- Lighter areas attract the eye like a moth to light
These simple photographic or compositional techniques are vital if you ever want to create images that sell – travel photographs, for instance.
I’ll try to dig out some more examples of leading lines and composition., meanwhile if you want to learn more about good composition, my DVD Light and Composition is available here